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UN Blames Failure of Meece's Mills on Lack of Cement In DRC, No Fuel Response

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- Four days after the failure of a UN project in rape-scarred Walikale in Eastern Congo was exposed by Inner City Press, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman acknowledged that the "Quick Impact Project" announced in March 2011 "has yet to be completed," but blamed this on having no cement to construct buildings to protect the equipment.

  But the equipment are gas-powered grinding mills which Congolese sources told Inner City Press were ill-conceived in an area with limited and high-cost fuel, and that the failure of the project which was announced by Ban's envoy Roger Meece is due to Meece's disinterest and long absences even from Kinshasa.

  Click here for Inner City Press' initial April 13 exclusive story on "Meece's Mills." The UN has yet to respond to that.

  On April 17, Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey belatedly read out this answer:

Yesterday, I was asked about a project in the Walikale area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

[Note: video of April 16 briefing where Inner City Press asked for response to its story is online, but for now there's no Internet link to UN transcript of that briefing.]

The UN Mission in that country, MONUSCO, informs us that the Community Development Project in the Walikale area to assist female survivors of sexual violence was approved by the Mission's Local Project Review Committee in Goma on 21 February 2011. It consists of 2 manioc mills and 3 rice huskers, and the initial budget was $12,000.

The Local Project Review Committee decided to allocate an additional $3,000 in March 2011 following a consensus on the necessity of constructing buildings to protect the equipment, which would also serve as storehouses.

According to the agreement between MONUSCO and the local partner, Coordination Locale des Actions Feminines pour le Developpement, this local partner is responsible for ensuring the timely construction of these buildings, which unfortunately has yet to be completed.

The delivery of cement has proven particularly problematic. Walikale is very difficult to access from Goma, and MONUSCO logistics experts determined that air transport of cement would be too dangerous. The only alternative was to purchase cement directly from the Walikale market, and that option has been very expensive.

To cope with the unexpected financial burden, the Local Project Review Committee has agreed to release an additional $10,000; however, these funds will only be made available upon receipt of the second interim progress report for the initial $3,000 and that progress report from the local partner is still pending.

MONUSCO has consistently taken corrective measures to ensure the completion of this important project. Through colleagues based in Goma, the Mission will continue to liaise with the local partner to ensure that the project becomes a reality which will enhance the quality of life for the survivors of sexual violence in the Walikale area.

  Inner City Press followed up:

Inner City Press: I am waiting to see if you, if DPKO can rebut this, that number one, this was a quick implementation project. It was supposed to be completed in three months, although it began in 2011. In fact, Mr. Meece asked the Indian brigade in North Kivu, to install it and they refused, because they said it makes no sense to install mills that are based on generators and fuel that’s not present in the community — they should have used a water-based mill. There is a critique being made that the whole project is ill-conceived, ill-suited to the area and that even the peacekeepers said that they didn’t want to install it. So, I want to know, what is the response to that, that portion of it.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to check into that, I don’t have any information with me.

  It's the next day and the information or response has still not been provided on this, nor on the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' use of private military contractors. Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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